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July 22, 2007

Why I Don't Like Bill Richardson

Richardson
Is this really the sort of Democrat we need?

In Ossipee, [Richardson] bragged about his support for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, a rigid straitjacket on spending that Bill Clinton and most leading Democrats opposed in the 1990s. And, presumably contrasting himself with Edwards, who is running as an economic populist, Richardson declared, "I'm also a Democrat who does not believe in class warfare. I'm not going to rail against rich persons. That's not me. I believe that we should have a pro-growth economy."

A balanced budget amendment. I didn't even know serious people believed in such horseshit. The idea that you'd bar the federal government from deficit spending during recessions is nuts. Here's why: In a recession, unemployment increases, total incomes drop, and thus people don't pay as much in taxes. This pushes down government revenues. At the same time, the need for government programs and the reliance of government subsidies increases, as more Americans qualify for everything from Medicaid to subsidized school lunches to the State Children's Health Insurance Program to unemployment benefits. So just as revenues soften, the need for enhanced government spending to smooth out the hard times increases.

This is what Bill Richardson would like to keep the United State government from doing. This is what he brags about keeping the United States government from doing. And this guy is running for president with a D after his name. It's absolutely bizarre. Richardson is a real fiscal conservative. And not in the imprecise way that the term is sometimes bandied about to mean "fiscally responsible." The guy is actually a conservative. Oh, and he also likes to talk about being a "tax-cut Democrat," which means Richardson wants to bar deficit spending when revenues are at a notable low (because of the Bush tax cuts) and deficit spending is all that's keeping us afloat. It would be nice if some enterprising reporter would ask Richardson just which programs he'd cut to make up the difference.

Original image here.

July 22, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Hm, interesting. Can anyone with a New Mexico background chip in w/r/t how he treats real life budgets?

Posted by: Senescent | Jul 22, 2007 5:36:02 AM

The problem with deficit spending is that the government keeps up the spending even when the economy is good. It also creates the rachet effects that new programs get started during boom times that require even more deficit spenging during the bad times.

Maybe one should point out where government has cut spending and raise taxes during the good times to pay off the debt incurred during a recession. I doubt that it has occurred since the 1950's (and no, the last two years of the Clinton Administration do not count).

Maybe if governments could not deficit spend, they would incur less long term obligations and would set aside funds in a rainy day fund to pay for increase spending during a recession.

Posted by: superdestroyer | Jul 22, 2007 7:10:37 AM

Chile has an interesting feature in their constitution that requires balanced budgets in good economic times, but allows deficits during bad times all tied to a number of economic indicators. Of course, this isn't what Richardson is talking about, it's just an unenforceable pander to the economic right. His pro-growth triangulation, is just empty positioning, most likely aimed at increasing his donor base.

Posted by: AJ | Jul 22, 2007 9:20:36 AM

Maintaining a relatively small national debt incurred either in funding capital projects or to stimulate the economy is a sound idea. Large scale infrastructure projects and some defense expenditures can be legitimately expensed over time as a sound business practice. Government bonds to fund the debt are actually an extremely important part of the financial world and provide stability and liquidity for classes of investors such as pension funds and older people who need secure investment vehicles. In a nutshell, a national debt, much like a mortgage on a house, can be a positive thing. Reflexive embrace of a balanced budget amendment speaks poorly of any candidate's economic spohistication.

Posted by: klein's tiny left nut | Jul 22, 2007 10:24:05 AM

I just don't see a large constituency crying out for balanced budgets. Certainly not the business community, which would hate to see aggregate demand reduced, and only cares about deficits when inflation starts to be a problem. Of course Washington establishment types like David Broder are inordinately fond of the idea, and it's more likely that that's who Richardson is trying to get an in with, rather than any real world constituency.

Posted by: kth | Jul 22, 2007 10:49:52 AM

What's the deal with the guy? The Byron White thing, and now this. It's as if he occasionally gets confused about which party's nomination he's running for.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jul 22, 2007 10:53:06 AM

Maybe he's just one more dick. Remember the groping and harassment allegations?

Posted by: Joel Rutstein | Jul 22, 2007 11:07:35 AM

Basic bookkeeping -- you can "balance" a budget and still borrow gobs of money. Of course, net worth would plummet but that doesn't change the balance.

I wish someone would start pointing out that letting politicians use the term "for a balanced budget" as a synonym for being fiscally responsible gives the unscrupulous ones an easy way to con voters.

Posted by: Emma Zahn | Jul 22, 2007 11:23:34 AM

I often ask why certain, self-proclaimed politicians or pundits -- in this case Richardson, obviously -- don't become Republicans.

It is often taken as a cheap insult. But it isn't. If Richardson was in the GOP, the GOP would gain a sane moderate and the Democrats would lose a right-wing talking-point regurgitating, self-loathing Democrat. Win-Win, I say!

Posted by: space | Jul 22, 2007 11:48:31 AM

Yeah, Richardson is for balanced budgets and no government action on the economy because that worked so well for Herbert Hoover in 1929-32. Yep, just let the wizards of wall street run the economy - hedge funds, subprime debt, Enron and all.

Hoover liked fishing and did a lot of that while the economy nosedived. Richardson would be playing the ladies perhaps, instead of fishing. Same result.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 22, 2007 11:55:47 AM

it's just an unenforceable pander to the economic right. His pro-growth triangulation, is just empty positioning, most likely aimed at increasing his donor base.

Yep, that's right. This is a freebie position to take, because he knows perfectly well that it will never happen. I doubt he even genuinely believes it.

Oh, and for superdestroyer at 7:10 -- why doesn't Clinton count? Seems like a textbook example to me -- maybe the only one -- of using the good times to pay off the debt from the bad times (and/or bad policies of previous administrations).

Posted by: Glenn | Jul 22, 2007 12:36:37 PM

Richardson may be a damned fine person and he may have a several really good ideas about how to solve our country's problems, how to make it a better place for a most of us to live.

But he has been in politics for a very long time and he has not developed a following in any constituency. I infer that is so because he doesn't know how do build a following. Similarly, he has not worked on any particular issue enough to be known as an authority on it. He hasn't made any issue his own. I infer that is so because there is no issue that inflames his political soul or attracts his political brain.

I expect a presidential candidate to have at least one of those: the ability to lead or passion for an issue that matters.

Posted by: James E. Powell | Jul 22, 2007 12:46:36 PM

"Oh, and for superdestroyer at 7:10 -- why doesn't Clinton count? Seems like a textbook example to me -- maybe the only one -- of using the good times to pay off the debt from the bad times (and/or bad policies of previous administrations)."

I had exactly the same question for the same reasons. I guess it's the mirror image of It's OK If You're a Republican -- It Doesn't Count If You're a Democrat.

Posted by: nemo | Jul 22, 2007 12:55:51 PM

Richardson's economic record in New Mexico is pretty good. The real estate boom helped, but he also seemed to manage the economy well.

Here's the problem with state governors, though -- though state economies are often compared to national ones, states are more limited when it comes to being able to raise deficits to get through hard times. So state governors just have no experience with the valid techniques that Ezra Klein is talking about.

Posted by: Mike M. | Jul 22, 2007 1:04:31 PM

I would cut Richardson some slack on this. I'm glad he's saying it even if his remedy is a little crude. Today's politicians, Right or Left, are far more likely to institute massive deficits regardless of economic conditions or ultimate consequences than restrain spending in the face of an economy needing stimulation. Another Reagan legacy.

Posted by: sj | Jul 22, 2007 1:17:44 PM

One of the inherent problems with "citizen media" is that it is not bound to some of the strict standards of fact checking in major newsrooms. So a quote is taken, totally out of context, and a four or five paragraph "story" is created, followed by a score of comments all feeding from the same trough of bullshit.

Had you checked your facts, done your research, you would have found that Bill Richardson is proposing EXACTLY the type of Balanced Budget Amendment that AJ praises. As in Chile, Richardson's view of a Balanced Budget Amendment would provide for exceptions in times of both economic and military crisis.

This is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it's what I have to do in my own home, and in my own business. Your outgo cannot exceed your income, unless there is an emergency. Why is that bad?

Oh, no, I got a better idea! Let's continue to allow the Repukes to successfully label the Democratic nominee as a "tax and spend liberal" (one phrase spoken as one word). Let's not be able to rebut that phrase. Let's guarantee that a Republican gets in the White House for four more years. Let's guarantee another round of SC justices like Roberts and Alito.

Folks, you need to find a candidate that is electable. It's not the most polarizing woman in politics; it's not the charismatic senator with no stand on the issues (who calls himself an environmentalist while supporting subsidies for the coal industry); it's not the Senator preaching a new war on poverty when he couldn't even deliver his own state to the Kerry win column; and it's not even a pedantic former Vice-President who's not going to run anyway.

Look at a candidate, who has won re-election in a decidely purple state by almost 70% of the vote, with 40% of the Republicans voting for him. As for Senescent's troll on New Mexico, how is New Mexico different from Arkansas?

Posted by: CaliforniaDave | Jul 22, 2007 1:19:05 PM

Personally, I like a Democrat who talks about fiscal restraint.

Bush has put us in an effed up position by prosecuting a war without raising taxes. Josh Marshall has theorized that BUsh is actively trying to put the U.S. deeper into debt as a tool to bring down Social Security. If he bankrupts us enough, eventually Social Security will be unsaveable. That's the idea, anyway.

Of course Bush has also encouraged a "me-first, no sacrifice" philosophy throughout his presidency. We're at war, but, except for the troops and their families, there's been ZERO sacrifice. That attitude has permeated to the point where the idea of raising taxes has become a third rail politically.

You say tax receipts go down during a recession, Ezra, and that's true. But if we were to raise taxes on the upper brackets, raise taxes on capital gains, and roll back the estate tax cuts, I think you'd be shocked how much fiscal ground we could cover.

When you talk about all the government services we desperately need during a recession, would you include the 1 trillion dollars a year we spend on our military, homeland security, and the Iraq War? Do you think we could cut back on that a little bit?

We desperately need an adult in the White House. A person who can reintroduce the idea of shared sacrifice, and of leaving this country better than we found it for our children. A person who can lead -- not in words, but in actions, and not just on flag waving and boot stomping but on boring things like the budget.

Such a thing will involve raising taxes, no?

Posted by: Jason M | Jul 22, 2007 1:20:54 PM

Richardson's talking points have always reminded me of Schwarzenegger. The standard ridiculous fiscal conservative and social moderate lines spewed all over the place. How has he raised so much money? Is it from the Club for Growth types?

Posted by: jncam | Jul 22, 2007 1:27:24 PM

California Dave, you're blaming the victim by calling Hillary Clinton the most polarizing woman in politics. The Democratic Party should take the lead on evolving beyond sexism. See Steve Clemons' site, The Washington Note, for a thoughtful take on the good and possibly very bad sides of Richardson.

Posted by: Joel Rutstein | Jul 22, 2007 1:39:23 PM

how has Richardson's nature as somewhat of a sexual predator stayed out of the headlines this long? jeez will this clown just goooo away?

Posted by: benj. | Jul 22, 2007 1:43:59 PM

Richardson's view of a Balanced Budget Amendment would provide for exceptions in times of both economic and military crisis. -- California Dave

Dave, do you have any citation to support that statement? I'm assuming you must, given your love of fact checking. Here's why I ask: In the Salon interview, Richardson never mentions these aspects. I would have thought he might have if he believed an amendment with these important exceptions you talk about.

Here's the relevant excerpt:

I sort of see a contradiction in your domestic policy. You talk about your support for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. This would have been approved during the era of the Gingrich Congress if Bill Clinton had not been opposed to it. If it went through in a Richardson administration with you supporting it, wouldn't that rule out the funds for any expansion of healthcare or education or other major domestic initiatives?

If you recall, the Clinton deficit-reduction plan, which passed by one vote [in 1993], caused the resurgence in the economy. We grew 20 million more jobs, a [budget] surplus. When we pass a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, first of all I would never pass it if a recession or a war was going on. But you stage it, [over] several years. You commit yourself to certain steps.

No, I believe it would immediately send a signal to grow the economy, make more budget funds available. And I still believe that you could reshift priorities and spend more on healthcare and education. I think you could do it.

I was able to do it. I cut taxes in New Mexico. I increased spending for healthcare and education and had a surplus because the economy grew. I am a believer in growing the economy and being a pro-growth Democrat. I'm not somebody for whom every solution is a tax increase or more spending.

But isn't there a difference between talking about a balanced budget, which Bill Clinton achieved, and putting into play a constitutional mechanism that the Republicans could use against any new spending programs?

No, I think you also have to take other steps that involve tough medicine like a line-item veto. Clinton tried to do it and he almost got it done. Pay-as-you-go policies. Corporate welfare. I'd have a national commission like the base-closure commission that would list all the $73 billion in fat in corporate welfare in one vote and not allow it to be picked up. It would be tough to get rid of earmarks, you know that. But we've got to significantly reduce them or make them open.

Posted by: Glenn | Jul 22, 2007 1:45:36 PM

none of what the pro-Richardson posters are advocating requires a balanced budget amendment! and there's no need for one. there's just a need to have a competent adult human being in the White House, competent adult human beings in Congress & the the Justice Dept., and competent adult human beings running the media. can we have some kind of amendment to ensure those things instead?

this isn't Richardson showing "fiscal restraint" or "economic responsibility" (as the measure he calls for is potentially disastrously irresponsible), he's just using Republican talking points to take shots, and undeserved ones, at his fellow Democrats. big no-no. if that's all you can come up with, you are unable to make a case for yourself, Mr. Richardson.

and oh, CA Dave - I had a look at Richardson's campaign website, his 'issues' section makes no mention of a balanced budget amendment, much less giving any kind of nuanced take on one like you suggest we should all just magically know Richardson has. what is your source for this? searches of 'ontheissues', the NM.gov website also turned up nothing other than quotes of him saying "yes" when asked if he supports a balanced budget amendment. i seriously doubt the guy has thought much about it beyond "hmm, that will sound good in front of cameras".

Posted by: benj. | Jul 22, 2007 1:56:26 PM

Oh, no, I got a better idea! Let's continue to allow the Repukes to successfully label the Democratic nominee as a "tax and spend liberal" (one phrase spoken as one word).

When's the last time that old warhorse got trotted out, '92? As I recall it did not work then, precisely because the GOP was in a poor position to criticize anyone's fiscal policies.

Richardson is the candidate weakest on core Democratic principles at the exact moment when core Republican principles are most suspect. You'd have to drop all the way to Kucinich or Gravel to find a worse standard-bearer for '08.

Posted by: Mike B. | Jul 22, 2007 1:59:02 PM

talking about an amendment for balance budgets isn't talking about fiscal responsibility- it's a gimmick. much like flag burning.

Posted by: akaison | Jul 22, 2007 2:07:43 PM

Oh, no, I got a better idea! Let's continue to allow the Repukes to successfully label the Democratic nominee as a "tax and spend liberal" (one phrase spoken as one word). Let's not be able to rebut that phrase. Let's guarantee that a Republican gets in the White House for four more years. Let's guarantee another round of SC justices like Roberts and Alito.

Folks, you need to find a candidate that is electable.

You assume that Republican name-calling bears any relationship to what Democrats actually do or advocate.

Republicans called Bill Clinton a "tax and spend liberal" despite the fact that he balanced the budget and then some. Having the facts on our side makes no difference to them.

So your talk of "finding a candidate that's electable" is code speak for "finding a candidate who cowers before Republicans".

I prefer a candidate who will stand up for Democratic principles and make a strong defense of them, rather than capitulating to Republican arguments.

Posted by: M | Jul 22, 2007 2:09:05 PM

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